It’s always been Mississippi State for Justin Grantham.
Growing up in Ellisville, Grantham visited Starkville often. His father went to MSU, and the family had season tickets at Dudy Noble Field.
“It was Bulldogs from Day 1,” Grantham said.
But a month and a half ago, Grantham left his home state for Arizona, where he is currently stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson after twelve and a half years in the Marines. And this weekend, he’s been able to stay connected with the school he loves — by rooting against its biggest rival 1,500 miles from home.
A longtime baseball fan who played the sport in high school, Grantham planned to attend the Tucson Super Regional when he saw the University of Arizona sweep through its NCAA Regional. Then the Oxford Regional wrapped up last Monday, and Grantham saw who would be visiting Hi Corbett Field.
“I would have gone no matter who they were playing, but when I found out they were playing Ole Miss, I kind of wanted to go and help cheer on the Wildcats,” Grantham said.
He bought a ticket for Friday night’s Game 1, donning a blue Arizona hat and a maroon Mississippi State jersey. The “pretty good contingent” of Rebels fans who made the trip took notice.
“The first game, they got kind of rowdy there when they jumped out to that 3-0 lead early, started yelling at me and everything,” Grantham said. “They got pretty quiet there toward the middle of the game once Arizona got that lead.”
Before the end of a 9-3 Wildcats win, Grantham got a text from a friend and fellow Mississippi State fan. A picture of him standing in the bleachers in his mismatched regalia had made its way onto Twitter.
“I definitely knew I was going to draw a lot of attention, for sure,” Grantham said.
But as is usually the case with Twitter, things went wrong.
Grantham earned plenty of friends among Bulldogs supporters, but Ole Miss fans weren’t as sympathetic. Comments of “rent free,” “obsessed” and “pathetic” followed when MSU’s SB Nation account, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, tweeted out Grantham’s picture outside the stadium.
“I’m assuming they just don’t understand that I live in Tucson and I was going to come to the game no matter who they were playing,” Grantham said.
But not every Ole Miss fan showed resistance. A Las Vegas-based Rebels fan sought out Grantham on social media Saturday, and the two met up to take a picture together, attempting to unite the two sides of the rivalry.
Ole Miss got the best of Arizona from the start in Game 2, keeping the Rebels’ cheering section loud throughout the contest and setting up Sunday night’s winner-take-all Game 3.
Grantham said Sunday afternoon he had yet to decide whether to go. An earlier event, after all, took precedence: the second game of the Starkville Super Regional between his beloved Bulldogs and Notre Dame.
“I’m definitely not going to go until the State game’s over, because that’s the No. 1 priority: watching that game,” he said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.